Sleep is one of the most important factors in determining your child’s health status.  Sleep is important for immune regulation, mood, energy, digestive health, detoxification and growth.  Sleep is also one of the biggest concerns among parents of young children.  As a Naturopathic Doctor, I learned all about the important natural supports for sleep.  Safe, effective, sedative botanical medicines can be an increidble support.  Melatonin for some children for short periods of time can also be an incredible support to a child with a sleep issues.  By far the most important information about sleep that I have learned came after my training as a naturopath. 

After the birth of my first child I got my most intensive training on the importance of sleep schedules.  Sleep training methods can be controversial and I will list a few books at the end of this session for you to investigate but the first and most important keys to sleep are understanding your child’s signals that they are tired.  Believe it or not, if your child is rubbing their eyes, getting fussy or outright screaming, you have long missed your window for healthy happy sleep.  IT IS KEY TO NOTE THAT CHILDREN ARE NOT BORN KNOWING HOW TO SLEEP.  IT IS A SKILL THAT MUST BE NURTURED AND TAUGHT.

Dr. Marc Weissbluth, sleep researcher and renowned pediatrician promotes establishing sleep routines for infants. He emphasizes the need for infants to have regular, established naps, early bedtimes (6-8pm after 6 weeks old), and to (eventually) learn how to soothe themselves to sleep.

Understanding your child’s signals:
These signs are very important to understand.  When you see them you know that your child (especially when you start in infancty) is ready to sleep. Putting your infant or child down immediately when you see these signs ensures that you are catching their sleep window.  The sleep window is the time when kids are naturally the calmest and most ready to sleep.

Signs your babyor child is tired:

  • Decreased activity
  • Slower motions
  • Less vocal
  • Sucking is weaker or slower
  • Quieter and calmer
  • Appears disinterested in surroundings
  • Eyes are less focused – THE THOUSAND YARD STARE
  • Eyelids drooping
  • Yawning

If you miss these early signs, your child will become over tired and it will be harder, if not impossible, to put them to sleep easily.

Signs your baby or child is over tired:

  • Fussing
  • Rubbing eyes
  • Irritability
  • Crankiness

The common saying “sleeping like a baby” often doesn’t make sense to parents who are exhausted and frustrated.  Many babies seem difficult to get to sleep and wake frequently.  While this is normal for the newborn period, children begin to establish an internal sleep routine around 3 months of age.  It is important to understand that babies need sleep to be good sleepers.  One of the most important aspects of an infant sleep routine is that they wake up in the morning and within an hour will need to go down to sleep for their first nap of the day.  Hitting this nap will set the routine for the rest of the day and will help many tired parents by teaching their infant how to sleep better.

How long a baby can be awake before entering the overtired state depends a lot on their age:

  • 0-4 month olds can generally handle 1-2 hours of wakefulness before being ready to be soothed to sleep
  • 5-7 month olds can go around 2 hours
  • 8-12 month old do best staying up for around 3 hours at a time.

Establishing a sleep routine for bed time is a very important part of teaching children to be better sleepers.  Start at the same time every night with the same soothing techniques.  Your child will learn to associate these with bed time and will begin the important process of soothing themselves.  A child who can self soothe is able to get themselves to sleep and get back to sleep if they wake in the night. 

Some common bed time routines:

  • Taking a bath
  • Massaging your child – especially with castor oil as it promotes digestive health
  • Changing into pajamas
  • Dimming the lights
  • Feeding
  • Singing or playing music
  • Reading a book
  • Closing the curtains
  • Swaddling
  • Rocking

You will know your child is getting enough sleep because they will wake up happy.  A CHILD WHO WAKES UP CRYING IS STILL TIRED.